Theses Doctoral

Toward a Global Enlightenment: Music, Missionaries, and the Construction of a Universal History in Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century China and Europe

Jiang, Qingfan

My dissertation explores the transmission of musical knowledge between China, Portugal, and France in the context of a global Enlightenment. Through the lenses of two treatises authored by Jesuit missionaries serving at the Chinese Imperial Court––one introducing Western music to China, the other introducing Chinese music to France––I investigate how music and the system of knowledge represented by each treatise challenged their audience's worldview: although their interpretation differed, both the Europeans and the Chinese acknowledged China as the origin of the Western civilization. I argue that this construction of a universal history that accommodates all cultures on a single timeline shows there was a common effort across the globe to systematize the diversity of the world's musical cultures into one coherent principle and, more importantly, that the Enlightenment did not originate in Europe but was built on a shared effort of the East and the West to use history to make sense of the expanding globe.

My research offers a new model for musicological studies by situating music at the intersection between East Asian Studies, Mission Studies, History of Science, and Global History. Moreover, it challenges the preconceived notion of the Enlightenment as a purely European phenomenon and argues instead that the Enlightenment was global at its inception. In doing so, it moves beyond the framework of dissemination and the comparative approach that characterize much of the past scholarship on global history. Emphasizing simultaneous emergence over successive development and integration over connection, I examine how local societies actively incorporated foreign systems of knowledge in the face of globalizing forces and how this incorporation not only expanded but also transformed their conception of the world.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Sisman, Elaine R.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 3, 2021